I started hiking on frozen rivers with my mom and dogs. We’d do this every weekend. The workout was intense. Lots of deep snow and snowmobile trails. Out on the ice with my walking stick I always felt like a Mystic heading towards the crystal. Fat Nolan was my Skeksis half. The antagonistic portion. I felt cold on my cheeks, sweat in the grocery bags tied to my feet. Watching my dogs sniff around the woods, bounding across the river that divided North Dakota and Minnesota, I felt adventurous and alive again. I got this great feeling from working out. I was beginning to see the weight drop off. I had to get down to a minimum of 220 to do a drug study. We’d come off the river after a few hours and my mom would make fruit shakes and real food. All the years of rejecting the bland shit she cooked and now I couldn’t be more thankful. I dropped to about 215 and signed up to be a lab rat.
The first study I tried out for paid $5000. This was almost a half year’s wage at Town Mart. I was going to be rich. Then I found out I couldn’t do the study because I had a genetic blood clotting disorder. I got really paranoid and thought it meant I was going to die young. But worse, it made me feel like I’d lost the weight for nothing. I’d quit my job already and now felt fucked. Didn’t have much in savings and really needed the cash for rent and Netflix. I felt sorry for myself and pigged out on the floor of my room while naked. Then I called the lab rat company and found out the blood clot thing wasn’t really a big deal unless I became a smoker or stayed overweight as I got older. They said I could do other studies. I ended up getting into one that paid $3000 for two five night stays. It was great money. I was thinning and feeling good about life again.
I still felt sadness from living with my roomie, but knew our lease was up in summer and I’d be free. I broke up with my girlfriend but we were really still together in a lot of ways. I hung out with her virtually every day. She was always there to support me emotionally. To hang with me. I was losing weight, and moving into a new apartment. Had supportive people around me. Shit was looking up.
I went up to Alaska that summer and did a bunch of hiking.
I was heading back to school in the fall and was approaching handsome. Moved into the new apartment with my sister and her boyfriend. Bought a bicycle and cruised it all the time. I’d go out for a fifteen mile ride along the river several times a week. I thought I’d stay in great shape and lose more weight. But I didn’t.
I was eating healthier at this new apartment but not great; worked out sporadically, but not enough. The number was still hovering around 215 pounds. Sometimes dropped to 207 or so, but it’d all come back. I resorted to gimmicks to lose weight: drink only juice, sit in my parents’ sauna until I hallucinated the walls were made of bubblegum and condoms, not shit for days so that I felt fuller. I always told my brain that I was to starve myself or only drink juice that week. Then I’d forget and have a meal. Decide that week’s diet was shot. I kept on imagining that I’d lock myself in my apartment for a week and give myself zero access to food. Spend the time watching Farscape, building forts out of VHS tapes and old underwear. I thought I could starve it all off. But that was a fantasy.
Spring semester I got back into working out. I hit the gym several times a week and used the ellipticals for an hour or two at a time. I wasn’t eating very well, but was taking care of the exercise part. Never could get both going at once. My weight was hovering around 210 now. It stayed this way through summer.
I’d met a new girl who was really beautiful and very fit. She eventually became my girlfriend. I felt like I had to ingratiate myself to her enough so that she wouldn’t mind my weight. Why yes, I will rub your back for a half hour. I felt pretty gross in comparison. When we started having sex I always pulled a blanket over me after so that when she came back from the bathroom she wouldn’t see me and my gut laying there on the mattress. So that she wouldn’t regret what we’d just done.
In the fall she took off for college in New York and I was living a semi transient life the first half of my senior year. We were still together, but with her gone I didn’t really feel very accountable for my weight or health anymore. I was staying on a friend’s floor a lot of nights, and so because I didn’t have my own fridge, started eating junk food. I stopped being a vegetarian around this time and got into fast food gut bombs. I always had a weird thing about going to a drive-thru, but now was hitting them constantly. I always wanted to go get a burger at night. But instead of one I’d get three. Then give each four squirts of ketchup.
I had fantasies about food in my head. The image I always came back to was a bacon cheeseburger being cut into fourths with a massive knife. I don’t know why this is because I hardly ever got bacon cheeseburgers. And rarely did I bring a butcher knife with me to Burger King.
I had access to a scale and weighed myself obsessively. 207. 216. 210. 207 again. Shit, that’s a good weight. Guess it’s OK if I eat this pizza with chips on it. Scarf these fries. I was not good at self control. My mom nagged me about my weight and working out all the time. She said she’d pay me $5 for every hour I logged at the gym. Even this wasn’t enough incentive. She said I was a 23 year old who lived like an old grandpa. And she was right. I rode my bike all the time but that wasn’t enough. The only real incentive for keeping my weight off was to do studies. But I always just kept it low enough so that I would qualify. There were so many occurrences where I would starve myself for a few days just to be good for a screening. Once I showed up not realizing the BMI requirement for the study was lower than usual. I felt so shitty when they told me I was too heavy to qualify. Just another fat fuck sent home.
I moved into my own place in December of 2009 and had no one to keep me accountable. My mom tried, and I’m glad she did because she kept me in check, but she couldn’t live my life for me. But I actually did a good job. This was partly out of necessity. I didn’t know how to make anything so essentially lived off of heat up vegetables, hummus, apples, and Cheerios for six months. I rarely washed my dishes so the Cheerios usually tasted horrible. Even if I wasn’t going to wash old green beans out of my bowls, I decided that I should try look good for my girlfriend since she kept herself so attractive. I started going to the gym all the time.
When exercising I always kept a variety of things in mind for why I should stick with it. I knew that if I didn’t develop a habit of getting there I’d stop going. I’d stopped and started so many times. Even if I went there for months, a week off could send me into a spiral where I wouldn’t show up for months more. My main problem was always just getting up off my mattress to drive over to the gym. If I could get out from under my blanket pile to go out into the cold and hop in my iced over car, the exercise part was easy. I’d think about how great I always felt after a workout. About how it gave my skin color. How my body looked better after I stepped out of the shower. How I wouldn’t have to buy a shirt anymore and then realize I didn’t fit in it. That fly on a bicycle t-shirt was going to be so rad, but I was too fat to rock it. My girlfriend bought me an amazing Aquabats shirt but it looked way too tight on me. I thought about how I wouldn’t have to spend my day in class adjusting my clothes and pulling my shirt so that it didn’t look like I had some pre-teen man tits. About how much better sex was when I was in shape. How I wanted to get back to my high school weight which was roughly the last time I’d felt attractive without a girl’s encouragement.
I’d hop on an elliptical, put on a great band or podcast, then start into it. I usually watched shitty PBS shows or Lakers’ games with Fever Ray playing in my ears. Sometimes it took me a half hour or more to get into it, but when I did I’d be in a groove. Several times I was at the gym for six hours or more. Getting that workout going felt great. I’d sweat and drink the fruit shakes I brought with. My mom got me a blender that Christmas and this was key to my weight loss. Instead of snacking during school, I’d suck blended peaches and water. The shakes gave me the energy to work out for so long. After a workout I’d always text my girlfriend and tell her how many calories I’d burned. 1200 calories just got cold smoked. Over 900 calories were deployed to Hell by Sergeant Elliptical today. Her encouragement always helped. Having someone to be held accountable to was my strongest motivation. I wasn’t going to date and fuck my mom so her words didn’t have much power. But getting approval from this girl always made me want to keep going.
But too many nights I decided that I’d rather just lay around on my mattress and masturbate or go on the internet for six hours until my girlfriend could call. The internet has probably made me heavier than anything else. At times it’s become an addiction and there are days where I’ll spend twelve or more hours on it. Hunched over pose, cock in hand. I would always tell myself that I’d finish one little thing, then head out. But whenever I finished that, I’d find more new things to look up. I’d snack and browse. Snack and browse. Before I knew it, hours had passed and the gym was closed.
This is what I was looking like in late January 2010 before I got serious about exercise and healthy eating.
Still though, my girlfriend came back for Spring Break and told me I looked good. And I actually kinda did. She virtually never commented on my appearance during our relationship so the few times she said I looked good or cute always stuck in my mind. I was doing something right.
I went skiing for a week with my relatives and came back weighing 202 pounds. I’d been that low about a year before, but then gained it back. I knew this was a critical weight for me and that mentally I just wanted to dip below 200 so bad. I hadn’t been there since the time I was living in that hole in the dirt. So we had a wonderful break together, I turned 24 with the best birthday celebration of my life, and shit was seemingly going my way.
I was about to graduate college. I’d gotten some recognition for my writing and a couple small scholarships because of it. People in writing classes often complimented or talked about what I did. My creative writing professor really believed in me and was so encouraging. Everything felt nice in terms of goals accomplished. My girlfriend was going to be back for all of summer and I had a plan in motion. I was going to keep on at my school’s gym. This was the first time I’d be paying for a gym on my own. Before that it either came free with school or my mom gifted it to me. Ninety bucks later and I was good through August.
Summer came and I looked good. I was still around 200 pounds, tan, and my girlfriend made me feel really attractive. I was eating pretty healthy and exercising a good amount. Started jogging for the first time in my life and loved it. I’d run a 5k at the gym or out on a rural gravel road with my fat crazy dogs. Chromeo and Devo were my jams. They made me run so much farther. So much fancier. I even did a charity 5k with my parents because they were really into them, exercise in general, and eating well. They’re both in their fifties and seeing what good shape they’re in was a good motivator. My hag mom always reminds me she is thirty years older than me so I should be able to keep up with her decrepit ass.
But midway through summer I slowed down on my exercise. Instead of going to the gym several times a week I’d go once, then not for weeks at a time. Sometimes I went there and used the scale to check my weight, then came right back out and left. I was doing good enough. Keeping it consistent around 205 pounds. I hadn’t been able to dip below 200, despite my laziest efforts. My girlfriend and I would run together sometimes, but really we did more talking about how we were going to exercise than actual execution. A planned run would get canceled because there were too many mosquitoes out or she was too tired after a long day of work. Because I was in more of a eat two bowls of cereal mood. I saw her every day and gradually forgot the inspiration and drive I’d had to keep on looking good. Frequent sex has always been a motivation killer for me.
The end of summer came and my girlfriend went back to school. I’d been ok about exercise, but with her gone pretty much gave up. I went out to visit my sister in Olympia, Washington. We did a lot of walking, but it was too hilly for me to run. Then I got into a month long study that paid a ton of money. That completely threw me out of whatever exercise pattern I had left. I didn’t have a gym membership anymore and it was too cold to exercise outside. I’d rent a yoga or Pilates DVD from the library, then maybe use it once in a half assed session before returning it.
I went out to New York to visit my girlfriend in November and ate like a total pig. I was back in freshman year of college mode. Every day I had access to a buffet. I’m really horrid at self control. The only way I can live healthy is to keep temptation distant. I have to buy healthy groceries and stay away from ice cream at other peoples’ places. When I have bad food in front of me I have a compulsion to scarf it all. I always try to brag up the healthy shit I eat as a mental compensation for the secret eating I do. It wasn’t even always that I was eating bad food, it was that I was eating so much, too late at night, and at too often of intervals. I feel like I have to eat everything I take. Almost never throw anything away. I’ll stack a half foot of food on my plate, then eat to the point of getting sick.
At her college I’d pile two plates full of food for dinner every night. Skyscrapers of lasagna and cream cheese bagels. She’d eat something really small and I’d ask her how she could survive on so little. I think she thought how could I eat so much. I was eating like a shithead and got offended any time she tried to bring up how unhealthy it was. Acted like she’d said something so offensive when asking why I had to combine six different foods and stuff it into myself as quickly as possible. I was ashamed of my eating habits and weight, but instead of confronting them I acted like she was being rude. We went to a restaurant one night after a movie for shakes and dinner. I ate so much I became sick. She had to drive us home because I couldn’t do anything except lay in my reclined seat and moan. I ate all her Tums and went to bed feeling like a fat fuck. But I didn’t learn my lesson. The next morning I said I was dumb for doing that, but knew I’d do it again. I kept on eating this way every day I was there.
I’d bought a scale a while back and always brought it wherever I went. The scale was good and bad for me. I bragged about it like a prize. I don’t buy much for myself since I prefer to spend my money on travel and concerts, but this was a king’s luxury. As long as I kept my weight at a certain point I thought it was alright if I ate whatever I wanted. I made so many mental deals like that. I was weighing around 212 at this point. I never told my girlfriend my weight and made her look away when I stepped on the scale, then covered the number with my foot until it disappeared because I was still embarrassed about it. Didn’t want to be held accountable.
Despite that shame, I justified it all and thought I looked ok. Then I’d look at a photo she’d taken of me and realize how bad it really was. I looked thick and gross. If we took a photo together it didn’t seem right. She was gorgeous and I was me. The puffy creep leering over the pretty girl. I always stretched my neck in an awkward upward way so that it didn’t roll. I’d have her shoot me from different angles so I’d look ok, and never from below because you’d see my fat neck unfurling towards the world. If anyone ever tried to shoot me from below I’d get upset without explaining why. Tell them not to be stupid. I’d have to take dozens of photos just to find one I felt alright with. When uploading them to Facebook I always tried to look for the one photo that didn’t make me look chunky. Instead of committing to losing weight, I was just trying to balance it all out by manipulating my image.
Then our relationship ended. It wasn’t because of how I looked, but that probably didn’t help any. Pigs get fed, but hogs get slaughtered. I’d turned myself into a hog and now I’d ruined a relationship with the best person that had ever been part of my life. I drove back from New York feeling pretty crappy. I signed up for a study and was embarrassed when the scale weighed me at 215 pounds. I’d gone back to being as fat as I was two years prior. Hours at the gym and all I had to show was stomach rolls and singledom.
After that study I drove out to Portland, Oregon to visit my sister’s new town for a month. During the drive I found out my ex had moved on and that devastated me. I arrived in Portland a total wreck. I’d already been really sad that our relationship had ended, but I thought I could fix it. Now I knew I couldn’t, and I felt even worse. I would literally spend entire days on the busted recliner couch, not getting up to even piss or drink water. My sister would find me half on the floor, half on the couch, and thought I was just being lazy. In secret I was crying all the time and couldn’t always eat. It was pretty pathetic.
I decided to channel as much of this energy as I could into being healthier. Started eating really good food. Started going to the gym to swim and work out. Had a big walk every day. I dropped down to 200 pounds pretty quickly. Then below. Dipping under 200 wasn’t as ceremonious as I thought it’d be. I celebrated with an orange and some 90s cartoons.
I went back to North Dakota to see my ex before her break ended. I thought I was going to save our relationship. It didn’t happen and I became extremely depressed.
I literally would go days without eating. Without any hunger. I’d sit in bed at my parents’, sobbing multiple times a day into my mattress. Watching John Hughes movies to space out. When I stood up I always felt dizzy. I had zero appetite and forced myself to eat. The food always felt like a wad of newspaper in my stomach. The obituaries and Ann Landers, not Sherman’s Lagoon and funny personal ads. It was hard to swallow anything. I could feel it trickling down my throat like some tasteless slop. I only did it because I was afraid I’d pass out walking down the stairs and trip into another dimension or something. If you’re overweight and in love, just get your heart broken. It’s a miracle weight loss drug. Go ahead and try it. Shit is way fun. Anyway, after a while my appetite came back bit by bit. I still only eat about once a day, but don’t have to force it down.
I moved out to Portland to try restart things for myself. Decided that health would be at the top of that list since it was something I could manage. With everything else spiraling out of control, my weight was the one thing I had complete autonomy over. I realized I only had control over my actions and that I couldn’t change those of others no matter what I did or how hard I wished it.
I go for a walk every day here. I also go to the gym to do elliptical and swimming about twice a week. This is the first time in forever I’ve felt comfortable enough to take off my shirt at a public pool. For years I made excuses about why I wouldn’t go join people in a hot tub or for a swim. It feels incredible to not have that self conscious burden anymore. Laps and treading water feel great. Then I reward myself by sitting in the hot tub to watch some fat dude blast water up his ass from a hose hydrant in the kids’ pool.
I would jog here but it’s too fucking hilly. The couple times I’ve tried have left me a heaving mess. I walk the dogs of some old people I met. I’m supposed to start yoga and Pilates with my sister, but we never seem to get around to renting the DVDs and our TV is total shit. It sits on a five gallon bucket and flickers. But we’ve done enough that it feels like a good start on it. The intensity of pain caused by my relationship problems always lessens dramatically when I’m working out or on a walk. It’s the one thing that helps me feel good on a shitty day. I guess it’s something I can focus on so that my mind can’t wander into the bad things. It’s been really good for me. Exercise and healthy eating are the best parts of my day now.
As I’m writing this I weigh 187 pounds. That’s the least I’ve weighed since high school. My goal is 175, then toning from there. My BMI is about 25 which is considered to be just at the top of a healthy weight. I also cut off a bunch of my hair. Looking back at photos I took prior to Christmas I can see how different I look now (at least to me it’s visible, perhaps not to you, folks).
I’ve made a total lifestyle change in terms of what I eat and my activity level. I get anxious if I sit around on the couch too long. I pig out on vegetables and drink so much orange juice. I have a sweet water bottle I’m decorating with stickers. It helps me more than almost anything. I keep it nearby so when I have the urge to snack I drink from it instead. I’ve realized that I can only control so many things in my life. My health is on that list. I’ll lose even more weight and look even better. I feel pretty good about that.
Your Thinning Narrator, Gabfrab: